6 Ways Retailers Can Maximise Value With Creative Engineers

by Steve Barrett February 25, 2021 | 4 min read

“Engineering” and “creativity” aren’t often considered synonymous. However, in today’s world, where the online experience is at the forefront of virtually all business transactions and experiences, the creative engineer is finally getting the recognition they deserve. These individuals are quite literally building the virtual world we live in.

In January, PagerDuty hosted a roundtable discussion amongst retail executives in EMEA who wanted to understand how technology can build a future for retail in the wake of the pandemic. Six key themes emerged—most notably, a need for the continued cultivation of creativity in their engineering departments.

“We need the most talented [engineers] because we are trying to reflect something online, which is super, super hard”, explained Daniel Bobroff, Co-Founder of ASOS Ventures. “Companies don’t necessarily need to employ all those people within their office, the talent can come from wherever”. However, Daniel also stressed that “retail does need to get better at sharing the interesting work”.

Check out the six key themes below:

1. See Your Organisation as Engineering-Led

“It’s easy to treat the software engineer as a commodity, and talking casually about ‘digital’ doesn’t help. The term ‘engineering-led’ is far better as it helps highlight the skills needed to achieve digital excellence”, said Hubert Behaghel, Head of Software Engineering at Marks & Spencer.

2. Plan Your Technical, Creative Management

There isn’t one set of skills—or clear management route—to generate the ultimate online experience for consumers. However, the answer probably lies in a blend of top-down direction from the board coupled with proper technical, creative oversight from the engineering organisation.

“In my experience, where some engineering teams fall short is not due to a lack of knowledge, and not through lack of resources—it’s through a lack of direction from top-level management,” said Nick Smith, IT & Digital Operations Director at 1000Heads, a major London marketing agency that works with many retailers.

3. Use Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), Not Return On Investment (ROI)

ROI was traditionally the metric to gauge success in most walks of business, but several of the panelists highlighted the value of OKRs instead. “This will drive innovation,” said one executive, who then urged fellow attendees who didn’t have clear OKRs in mind to use this site as a reference and begin defining OKRs that could work for their organisation.

4. Understand What Makes Engineers Tick

“Nobody in my team would really be uber excited by the fact that we’re going to create 100 million pounds of extra revenue in the next three years”, explained Hubert Behagel, “instead, these creative individuals are interested in pushing the envelope with fun, online experiences”.

5. Learn From Gaming

“Games are incredibly sophisticated pieces of technology where the technology doesn’t matter”, said Daniel Bobroff. “It is all about the experience”.

The same is true in retail, where consumers don’t want to sift through a slow, dull catalogue, but want seamless technology that provides a more exciting virtual trip down the shops. This, in turn, is an interesting challenge for engineers who also don’t want to work on catalogues.

6. Know the Place of Scalable Infrastructure

“It’s scary how quickly things move”, said Nick Smith. “If you haven’t got a scalable environment—or a scalable team—that can make these new and emerging trends in technology work, then you’re going to fall behind very quickly”.

Bottomline, the need to place engineering at the centre of operations has never been clearer, and through cultivating a culture of creativity, the engineering department will transform the customer experience and the way retailers operate.

PagerDuty works with nearly half of the Fortune 500 retailers on their digital transformation operations, all focused on engineering-led automation solutions to increase customer satisfaction.